Depicting change. Rephotography reviewed


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Poster for the Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory II Conference: Spatiality, memory and visualisation of culture/nature relationships: theoretical aspects
22-24 October 2009

Published in: Education, Art & Photos, Travel
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Depicting change. Rephotography reviewed

  1. 1. Holger Vaga, Seasons Project HDR, selection of photographs taken between September 25th, 2008, and May 26th, 2009. Depicting change. Rephotography reviewed Photography has ever since its invention been used to extend the borders of human visual perception of time. It can render graspable processes that are both too fast or too slow for the Vahur Puik Centre for Landscape and Culture human eye or consciousness. For the phenomena such as changes in landscape time-lapse Estonian Institute of Humanities photography or rephotography are used. When time-lapse photography consists of many shots Tallinn University taken at a certain interval and it is ordinarily presented in an animated form in order to perceptually speed up the process it is depicting, rephotography aims to demonstrate the change as a result, to give a comparison of then and now. Although the distinction between the two methods is not strict, time-lapse photography is rather an intentional approach of one single author while rephotography has not to be performed by the photographer of the initial shot that can originate from the past years before its repetition. The rephotographic method as such was very consciously put to use in France already in the last quater of the 19th century for the purpose of evaluating the success of the reforestation process on the mediterranean slopes1, more recently it's been employed for similar, very applied reasons in Finland for the monitoring of the changing rural (previously) agricultural landscapes2. But the term 'rephotography' was made known by a team of american photographers in the end of 1970s and beginning of 1980s with their Rephotographic Survey Project which tracked down the vantage points of the famous photographs of American West and reshot the views captured first during the From left to right: expeditions a century before. Of these rephotographers Mark Klett (with actually a background in Timothy O'Sullivan, 1872. Green River Buttes, Green River, Wyo. (United States Geological Survey) geology) gathered a new crew around the turn of the millennia to carry out another round of Mark Klett and Gordon Bushaw for the Rephotographic Survey Project, 1979. Castle rock, Green River, Wyo. Mark Klett, Kyle Bajakian, Byron Wolfe and Toshi Ueshina for the Third View Project, 1997. Castle rock, Green River, Wyo. rephotography to be called the Third View3. Byron Wolfe and Mark Klett for the Third View Project, 2000. Panorama from O’Sullivan’s “Canyon of Lodore” camera position. Inset: Timothy O’Sullivan, 1872. Canyon of Lodore, Green River, Wyoming. Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, 2007. Panorama from Hopi Point on the Grand Canyon, made over two days extending the view of Ansel Adams. Right: Ansel Adams, 1941, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. (Courtesy of the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ) The primary goal of the rephotography has been to exemplify the changes which have taken place Rephotographic diptychs or triptychs have a powerful narrative potential—on one hand the in the environment. In order to achieve that end, that is have the difference stand out best, the connections for building up narrative are easily accessible for the viewer, and comparing pictures, similitude of the original photograph and its later repetition has to be maximized. That is why not looking for similarities and differences is very engaging (in that sense the rephotographic sets are only the vantage point and perspective but also the time of the year and light conditions have to be less hermetic than single photographs), but on the other hand the interpretation is (although mimicked, as all the deviations (e.g. different shadows) would mislead the detection and implicitly transparent) strongly channelled (and therefore limited). Peeter Linnap, for instance, identification of change. The second and third views of Mark Klett et al. are meticulously precise has complimented Peeter Tooming's rephotographic project "55 years later" in the footsteps of repeated photographs, but this kind of exact rephotography actualises the object of the Carl Sarap for its wittiness for leaving all the responsibility for the conclusions solely to the representation, i.e. landscape, environment, while hiding many aspects of the photographic viewers,4 although the intentional value-ladenness of the chosen rephotographic method is quite practice itself. Following the steps of their earlier colleagues the thirdviewers started to reflect explicit in the introductions of the book series "55 years later" by Tooming himself. upon the subjective role of the photographers in creating the public images of the iconic landscapes, about the embodied values in their choices of view-points etc. If only the old views are 1 cf. Restaurer la montagne: photographies des eaux et forets du XIXe siècle. 2004. Paris, Arles: Somogy éditions d'art, Museun Arlaten. reiterated the resulting overall image has its specific bias as the changed pattern of meanings in 2 cf. Heikkilä, Tapio 2007. Visual monitoring of Finnish landscapes. Photographic documentation of changes in cultural landscapes. Helsinki: the landscape will not be revealed (for instance new landmarks inexistent at the time of the initial Taideteollinen korkeakoulu Musta taide. photographing). Thus the emergence of a 'new', contextual rephotography during and after the 3 4 Linnap, Peeter 2007. Kontseptualism ja Eesti dokumentalistika. – Third View project, which stepped out from the ideological and pictorial borders of the 'old', exact Silmakirjad: kirjutisi fotograafiast ja visuaalkultuurist 1986–2006. Tartu: Tartu Kõrgem Kunstikool, p. 60. rephotography and started to stress the presence of photographers by including autoportrayal and by creating panoramic collages of contemporary and historic pictures. In this contextual approach also the ephemeral phenomena and qualities of landscapes came into view. Poster available at